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Applicants For Stimulus Funds Should Expect A Long Wait; ACORN Deemed Ineligible

WASHINGTON, November 3, 2009 – Between the government’s slowness in announcing recipients of its broadband stimulus grants and the process of dolling out the funds once the awards have been made, applicants can expect a long wait ahead of them. The NTIA will not announce who will receive the first broadband stimulus grants until at least mid-December, according to an NTIA spokeswoman. The agency then plans to announce more awardees on a rolling basis, she added.

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WASHINGTON, November 3, 2009 – Between the government’s slowness in announcing recipients of its broadband stimulus grants and the process of dolling out the funds once the awards have been made, applicants can expect a long wait ahead of them.

The Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, one of the government agencies Congress charged in January with distributing $7.2 billion to expand broadband deployment and adoption, will not announce who will receive the first broadband stimulus grants until at least mid-December, according to an NTIA spokeswoman. The agency then plans to announce more awardees on a rolling basis, she added.

The only group that knows for certain that it won’t be getting funds is the controversial ACORN Institute, which describes itself as a group that uses “research and training to address the problems in low-income communities identified through years of community organizing.”

Its applications have been deemed “ineligible for funding” by the NTIA. See the listing on NTIA’s Broadbandusa.gov web site.

The ACORN Institutes de-funding is the result of guidance issued by the Office of Management and Budget to executive branch agencies cutting off funding to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or any of its affiliates, subsidiaries, or allied organizations.

“To the extent your agency already has determined that funds should be obligated or awarded to ACORN or its affiliates but has not yet entered into any agreement to provide such funds to ACORN or any of its affiliates, your agency should not provide such funds, or enter into any such agreements to do so,” the document reads.

The move by OMB was a result of Congressional action to block funding to the group after videos emerged that appeared to show ACORN workers advising illegal activities, according to news reports. A spokesperson from ACORN did not provide any on the record comment by deadline. The videos were not the first concern related to the group’s activities that has emerged over the past few years.

With respect to other organizations, once a recipient of the stimulus funding is named, the agency plans to complete all the required paperwork and deliver the funds within 60 days of the announcement, according to a July notice (PDF) in the Federal Register.

The agency originally intended to start announcing grant recipients in November, but Larry Strickling, head of the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, told lawmakers during an oversight hearing on October 27 that the program has been falling behind.

“Given the large number of complex applications and the very voluminous amount of information that we need to review, we have decided to expand our review period,” Strickling said.

“And we are now targeting our first grant awards for mid-December, about a month later than we originally projected last July when we announced the first round of funding. Similarly, we will not conclude the first round of funding at the end of this year as we had originally hoped,” Strickling continued.

“But, we expect to do so in February of next year. I’m confident that by expanding our first round review period we will maximize the significant and lasting improvements in America’s technological innovation and economic health promised by our program,” he added.

During the hearing, many lawmakers cited the challenges that NTIA and the Agriculture Department’s Rural Utilities Service have faced in evaluating applications and awarding funding.

About BroadbandCensus.com

BroadbandCensus.com was launched in January 2008, and uses “crowdsourcing” to collect the Broadband SPARC: Speeds, Prices, Availability, Reliability and Competition. The news on BroadbandCensus.com is produced by Broadband Census News LLC, a subsidiary of Broadband Census LLC that was created in July 2009.

A recent split of operations helps to clarify the mission of BroadbandCensus.com. Broadband Census Data LLC offers commercial broadband verification services to cities, states, carriers and broadband users. Created in July 2009, Broadband Census Data LLC produced a joint application in the NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program with Virginia Tech’s eCorridors Program. In August 2009, BroadbandCensus.com released a beta map of Columbia, South Carolina, in partnership with Benedict-Allen Community Development Corporation.

Broadband Census News LLC offers daily and weekly reporting, as well as the Broadband Breakfast Club. The Broadband Breakfast Club has been inviting top experts and policy-makers to share breakfast and perspectives on broadband technology and internet policy since October 2008. Both Broadband Census News LLC and Broadband Census Data LLC are subsidiaries of Broadband Census LLC, and are organized in the Commonwealth of Virginia. About BroadbandCensus.com.

Winter covered technology policy issues for five-and-a-half years as a reporter for the National Journal Group. She has worked for USA Today, the Washington Times, the Magazine Group, the State Department’s International Visitor’s Program, and the Council on Hemispheric Affairs. She also taught English at a university in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

Funding

Senate Confirms Davidson as National Telecommunications and Information Administration Chief

Bipartisan vote confirms Davidson atop the Commerce Department agency. It has a large pile of money to spend on broadband.

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Newly-confirmed head of the NTIA Alan Davidson

WASHINGTON, January 11, 2022 ­– In a bipartisan vote of 60-31, the Senate confirmed President Joe Biden’s nominee to head the National Telecommunications and Information Administration: Alan Davidson.

Davidson, a former public policy director at Google, will become the first Senate-confirmed head of the NTIA since mid-2019.

Several members of Republican leadership voted against Davidson’s nomination Tuesday afternoon, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Whip John Thune, R-S.D., as did Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., who had both been recorded as opposed to advancing Davidson’s nomination out of committee.

As the new head of the agency tasked with advising the president on telecommunications and information policy issues, Davidson will be responsible for overseeing the distribution of billions of dollars in broadband funding across the nation made available by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

On Friday, the agency released its request for public comment on the act.

Early reactions from industry groups to Davidson’s confirmation were positive, with the NCTA, the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions and Public Knowledge all praising the Senate’s approval.

In light of the funding the NTIA must help distribute, organizations emphasized the magnitude of Davidson’s confirmation, with ATIS saying the agency’s mission has “never been more important” and Public Knowledge called the NTIA’s role as a “critical position at an important time.”

Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel also praised the vote, saying that in working with Davidson’s NTIA she is confident that the FCC “can make progress on delivering innovative, modern communications that reach everyone, everywhere.”

Public Knowledge also said in their statement that Davidson’s work on funding alone will not close the digital divide without a fully appointed FCC.

They advocated for the confirmation to the FCC of their organization’s co-founder and former CEO Gigi Sohn– whose nomination has recently stalled in the Senate and would break the 2-2 partisan deadlock at the agency upon confirmation.

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NTIA

NTIA Publishes Report Calling for Better Data Aggregation Methods

The report notes need for separating broadband access data from other consumer stats.

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Acting NTIA Administrator Evelyn Remaley

WASHINGTON, December 29, 2021 – Year-end analysis by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration found that the agency is constrained in its data collection abilities by a lack of software that can separate broadband access data from other consumer statistics.

In its Access Broadband Report, released last Thursday, the agency proposed promoting consistent standards for data reporting that can separate this data from confounding variables and increasing data reporting requirements for entities it interacts with.

Additionally, significant lag times between broadband projects and intended outcomes was identified as an obstacle to the agency’s work, the report said.

The inaugural report, a produce of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, looks at agency accomplishments this year as well as investments in both federal broadband support programs and Universal Service Fund programs.

Specifically, the report focused on highlighting the achievements of the NTIA’s newly established Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth.

The report is consistent with ongoing NTIA efforts to improve broadband data availability, increase coordination between federal partners and be transparent about government spending.

Additionally, “the report summarizes the federal broadband investment landscape, details the current state of measuring investments and connection across federal broadband support and USF programs, and provides key recommendations to improve efforts to track broadband spending and outcomes,” including leveraging open data initiatives and identifying data sources and alternatives.

The NTIA is in the process of reviewing applications and making awards for three programs established by the Consolidated Appropriations Act: the Broadband Infrastructure Program focusing on rural connectivity, the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, and the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program.

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FCC

Eighty Civil Society Groups Ask for Swift Confirmation of FCC, NTIA Nominees

The groups sent a letter emphasizing the need for internet access expansion ahead of Wednesday confirmation hearings.

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Photo of Alan Davidson from New America

WASHINGTON, November 16, 2021 – Eighty civil-society groups have penned a letter to Senate leadership requesting a swift confirmation process for President Joe Biden’s nominees to the Federal Communications Commission and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

Groups representing interests spanning civil rights, media justice, community media, workers’ rights and consumer advocacy highlighted to Senate leadership the need for the agencies to shepherd internet access expansion on the heels of newly signed bipartisan infrastructure legislation.

Biden last month nominated Jessica Rosenworcel as chairwoman and Gigi Sohn as a commissioner of the FCC, as well as Alan Davidson for director of the NTIA. Rosenworcel and Sohn’s confirmations would make a full slate of commissioners at the FCC, ending the potential for 2-2 deadlocks.

Key Senate Republicans have since expressed concern over the nomination of Sohn, citing her liberal views on communications policy.

Signees of the letter emphasized that an ongoing global pandemic and “worsening climate crisis” raise the stakes for FCC and NTIA action, and that connectivity access issues are even further exacerbated among poor families and people of color.

Organizations on the letter included the American Library Association, Color of Change, the Communications Workers of America, Greenpeace USA and the Mozilla Foundation, among others.

The Senate Commerce Committee is scheduled to hold a confirmation hearing for Rosenworcel on Wednesday.

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